A Kunindrum…

Its been 2 weeks since my last update due to an AWESOME beercation to California in which I gathered quite a bit of fodder for this blog!

If you aren’t familiar with the beer scene in California, San Diego and the surrounding area is a mecha for craft beer. Mecha may be an understatement. One only has to look at Stone’s gaudy theme park sized testimate to Greg Koch’s ego to see how popular the craft beer scene is down there.

Of all the stops and all the beers that I had in southern California, one stood out to me as being particularly unique and tasty. Indra Kunindra is a collaboration between Ballast Point and a local homebrewer. Made with curry and coconut this is truly a unique beer.

Indra Kunindra

(photo borrowed from the San Diego Beer Blog as my photo did not turn out NEARLY as well)

Poured into a ~4 ounce sample glass in the brewery’s tasting room. This beer poured a very dark brown with a nice touch of tan head that clings to the corner of the glass. The aroma is very unique. Coconut is probably the most prominent smell as well as some lightly roasted dark malts. There is a definite spiciness to the aroma but I would not have identified it as curry had I not known. Tastes spicey and dry. The curry is definitely present but melds well with the rest of the beer. Coconut is pretty big. At 9% there is no surprise that there is a significant booziness. Its a bit too boozy to be very drinkable which hurts the beer a bit but well carbonated and the strong coconut is really pleasant to me. Definitely a well crafted beer that combines flavours I never expected to see used in brewing!

Why you’ll likely never try it: This beer was made once… ever… by Ballast Point with the help of the homebrewer who largely created the recipe. The bartender at Ballast Point informed me there were just a handful of sixth barrel kegs made and the one that was on tap when I was at the tasting room was the second to last one! The ONLY place you can try this beer is the Ballast Point tasting room and only as a 4 ounce pour. No “to go” growlers or even full pints. Definitely a rare treat

Is it worth seeking out?
I would say probably not worth seeking out… with as impossible as it would be to try without traveling to the source its just not worth it. Tasty? yes! Unique? you bet! Best beer I’ve ever had? not a chance. Too weird and boozy to push it into the ranks of beers that I would seek out again. If you happen to be in San Diego however… stop by and try this! You won’t regret it!

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Canada, Kentucky and Michigan at their best

In 4 posts this blog has hit 3 styles, 3 countries, and ranged in ABV from 4% to 41%

So in honor of my 5th review I decided to hit something right in the middle! A beer from my home state of Michigan sitting as a relatively take 9.4%

Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout

Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout is easily one of my favourite beers I’ve ever had. Anyone familiar with Founders has certainly had their oatmeal coffee brew “Breakfast Stout.” With its familiar label showing a baby eating a bowl of oatmeal it is a staple fall/winter beer. If you’re a particularly avid Founder’s fan you’ve likely even heard of/had Kentucky Breakfast Stout which is a similar oatmeal coffee stout aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels. Released on the Ides of March each year. But unless you’ve been extremely lucky you’ve likely never had KBS’s big brother Canadian Breakfast Stout. This beer is a coffee oatmeal breakfast stout similar to Breakfast Stout aged in bourbon barrels just like KBS but these bourbon barrels are special. They previously housed maple syrup for many months! These barrels still contain much of the maple flavour from the syrup and impart a particular smoothness and sweetness on the base beer making the resulting product a highly sought after brew!

Now, the review…

I’ve been lucky enough to have Canadian Breakfast Stout 3 times… one time was side by side with KBS for comparison. This review is a conglomeration of those experiences. pours off tap thick and dark just like KBS and Breakfast Stout. The oatmeal gives the beer a very thick heavy body. CBS has a nice tan head that compliments the colour of the beer well. There is a touch of reddish tint around the edges but for the most part this beer is too dark to see through. The aroma is amazing. Tons of coffee first, roasted dark malts, with a touch of woodiness from the barrels. As the beer warms the aroma gains more depth. Vanilla, bourbon, a hint of sweetness from the maple peak through. The coffee melds well with the flavours. The first sip tastes nearly identical to KBS. Coffee and roasted bitterness off-balanced by sweet maple and the slight booziness of the bourbon. The bourbon is more subtle than KBS and compliments the coffee well. The maple comes out more as it warms. This beer seems to drink best at almost room temperature. The oatmeal gives it a great thickness and the beer is so smooth of a drinker that I could easily polish off a few glasses in one sitting.

Why you’ll likely never try it: Canadian Breakfast Stout is one of the most elusive and sought after Founder’s beers. Its only available on tap (never been bottled) and even then kegs are rarely tapped. The maple bourbon barrels are available in very low quantity so Founder’s is quite limited in how much CBS they can produce. Even when it is on tap, no growler fills are allowed! If you live in Grand Rapids you can probably swing by founders and try this beer sometime in the next year but otherwise, you’ll just have to take a trip and hope you’re lucky!

Is it worth the hunt?
Absolutely it is! Easily one of the best stouts I’ve ever had and at an incredibly reasonable price (I think I paid 4 or 5 bucks for a large snifter at Founders). If you live in Michigan keep your eyes peeled for this tasty treat on tap at the brewpub!

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Blueberry, Blackberry, Raspberry, Cherry… Kiwi?

My last post dealt with one of the greatest lambics ever made and while Belgium is certainly the land of lambics and sour beers, I would be remiss to not mention some of the stellar lambics being made in the United States.

While there are several breweries delving into this strange style, one of the most well established is the Upland Brewery in Bloomington Indiana. Upland produces a whole series of lambics that are all derived from the same base beer. The series is comprised of 8 flavours (so far): kiwi, persimmon, blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, cherry, peach, and strawberry. I’ve had the good fortune of trying several of these varieties but one stands out above the rest both in uniqueness and rarity.

Upland Kiwi Lambic

Upland’s Kiwi Lambic was last released in early 2010 and this bottle was shared by a very generous sour lover (Ben) at a recent tasting.

The beer pours a hazy yellowed colour with almost a green tint. Its well carbonated with a nice solid off-white head. Again, a very subtle green tint (I apologize that the picture does not do the colour justice). The head fades fairly quickly. On the nose there is a nice base fruitiness but placing the aroma is impossible. Even knowing it is kiwi I don’t know that I can tell that is what kiwi smells like! There is a nice sour funk on the nose that is not abrasive in any way. On the tongue, a light bubbly fruitiness. Here I can tell it is kiwi, but the fruit flavours are covered by a tart funkiness. Lots of light citrusy almost flavours in the background. The sourness is potent but this beer is still very drinkable. The high carbonation and relative thickness of the beer aid in it being a wonderful sipper. One of the best of the Upland Lambics to be sure.

Why you’ll likely never try it: Actually, in this case, you might! In 2008 when this beer was first released there was a horrible accident in the brewery resulting in a cask being split open and gallons upon gallons of the precious beer spilling to the floor. Because of this, less than 50 bottles were released! In early 2010 they brought this beer back with a mere 300 bottle release. Many of these bottles have long since been consumed and this remains the rarest of the Upland Lambics! But, there is good news! On August 3rd, this beer will be re-released so, if you’re lucky, you could get your hands on one of the couple hundred bottles being put out

Is it worth the hunt?
Absolutely! Especially with the impending new release, Upland’s Kiwi Lambic is worth trying. Along with the kiwi, persimmon and raspberry are also being released and while I have never had either, they sound stellar and are reviewed well on beeradvocate and ratebeer.

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Copenhagen in the Summer: Cantillon Blabaer

When you think of beer what country comes to mine first? For most it is Germany… but really, it should be Belgium!

Cantillon is one of the most well known producers of beers fermented with wild yeasts and bacteria. The styles of “sour beer” vary greatly but one thing is for sure, if you want a good sour. Cantillon is the way to go!

Over the last few years Cantillon products have all but disappeared from American shelves. Increased demand coupled with less product being released to distributors in the US has lead to a shortage of Cantillon. This has made the already highly sought after assortment of beers particularly rare!

With very little debate, the most sought after, “best” Cantillon product to date is their blueberry Lambic Blabaer. I was fortunate enough to try this at a recent sour tasting.

Cantillon - Blabaer

The beer pours very thick and a deep dark purple with a nice pink head. this is a gorgeous beer. Before I even shove my nose in the glass I can smell the tart fruitiness. The aroma is very unique. If I didn’t know it was blueberries I don’t know that I would have been able to place it. Very funky from the wild yeasts. The berry nose is absolutely phenomenal. The taste is similarly amazing. Blueberry, dark almost cherry fruitiness coupled with a tartness that melds perfectly with the rest of the beer. Its very dry and has a nice acidity to it that doesn’t overpower. The light but very present carbonation is damn near perfect for the beer. I could drink this all day every day. Overall, easily the best sour I’ve ever had.

Why you’ll likely never try it: Blabaer is a remarkably rare beer (especially in the United States) due to its complete lack of distribution. Produced once a year with blueberries from Denmark, Blabaer is available from one place in the world! A well respected bottle shop in Copenhagen named Ølbutikken is the sole recipient of the small batch of Cantillon produced in the early summer each year. Bottles are sold out quickly and a limit of 2 per person. On occasion bottles make their way over seas in traveler’s luggage or rare (and pricey) international beer trades.

Is it worth the hunt?
Absolutely 100% yes. This beer is stunning in every way. While it may not change your view of the world it may change your taste in beer forever. As far as lambics go, this beer blows everything I’ve ever had out of the water. If you have friends in Copenhagen… or feel like taking a vacation sometime this beer would be worth planning a trip around!

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One for the record books: Sink the Bismark

BrewDog Sink the Bismark

Its not very often that a craft brewery makes national news headlines. Its even less often when that brewery is in Scotland!

Brewdog has always been a unique brewery known for pushing the envelope of craft beer. Much like Dogfish Head in the United States, Brewdog has use unusual ingredients, non-standard brewing practices, and show-y gimmicks to sell beer. While its debatable whether their beers are generally world class successes, they certainly make waves in the brewing community. Sink the Bismark was just one small part of a wave that consumed much of the beer world (and general population’s) attention for the better part of a year. From the fall of 2009 til summer of 2010 an epic battle of high alcohol beers raged across 3 continents.

Until November of 2009, the world record for the highest ABV beer was held by Sam Adams for its world class (but incredibly expensive) Utopias. At 26 (now 27) % abv, this beer is massive! But in the fall of 2010 the guys at Brewdog decided to take a stab at the title.

The reasoning behind the Brewdog crew’s stab at the title is one that few even in the beer community realize. Several years earlier, BrewDog had introduced a new beer they called Tokyo. An 18% abv imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels this beer blew the socks off the other beers produced in Great Britain. Proud of their creation, the brewers had their hopes crushed when the government told them that producing such a high abv beer was encouraging drunken behaviour and was not allowed. Frustrated, the Brewdog guys  fired back with Nanny State, at 0.5% abv IPA. They got their point across but not before they had already started on their polar opposite concoction.

Since the Scottish brewers were unable to get yeast to survive in 25+% abv environments, the brewers used an old technique known as freeze distillation (used often in Eisbock production) to push their beers higher and higher in alcohol content. Their first creation was Tactical Nuclear Penguin which tagged in at a massive 32% abv. To their surprise however, a german brewery fired back with a 40% abv beer within weeks! So, the brewers went back to the drawing board and cranked out a very small batch of a double (triple? quadruple?) IPA aged in scotch barrels that they called Sink the Bismark. At 41% held the record for a mere month before being topped once again. The race has since continued culminating in some insane 55%, 60%, etc beers that were produced in such small quantities that they were never commercially available (see: End of History) but Sink the Bismark remains the highest ABV commercially sold beer in the world!

Now what about the beer?

The beer is more of a liquor and should be treated as such. A 12 ounce bottle with almost no carbonation can be kept in the fridge (or actually in the freezer!) after opening for several weeks with ease.

I poured a mere ounce into a fluted shot glass. The beer pours thick and viscous. no head, no carbonation. Its a very pretty yellow-orange almost a honey nectar shade. One the nose its incredibly sweet and hoppy. There is a massive booziness to it as well (no surprise there) but the sweet citrusy aromas actually are quite pleasant. The first sip sits thick on the tongue. There is a wonderful bouquet of floral and citrusy flavours from what I can only assume are an insane amount of hops. The scotch barrel aging does really show in the beer (but with only a few weeks in the barrel I’m not surprised). There is a HINT of smokiness but, after the first sip, flavours become more and more difficult to distinguish. Upon swallowing the first tiny sip a solid burn travels down the back of my throat. The 41% is not hidden at all on the finish of this. Halfway through my ounce my tongue is a bit numb and the only thing I can taste is hops. Its thick and syrupy in a wonderful way and incredibly tasty for such a potent brew. While it gets a bad rap (mostly from people who can’t handle the ABV) I found this to be a stellar brew and one I wish I could have again and again (in place of a glass of scotch rather than in place of a different beer.

Why you’ll likely never try it: Sink the Bismark is not only incredibly rare to see in any stores it also commands a mighty 90-110 dollars for a 12 ounce bottle when it does. You’re better off buying it direct from the brewery (which will cost you a womping 40 pounds (which is nearly 65 dollars at the current exchange rate). Add to that international shipping and you’re paying 80+ for a bottle. To top that off, batches are so small that there is often a waiting list even if you are willing to shell out!

Is it worth the hunt?
If you can stomach the ~100 dollar pricetag… Yes. This is one of the rare times when I felt the price justified the beer. This beer started at ~15% before it went into scotch barrels. It was freeze distilled up to 41% meaning the brewers pitched likely 3/4 or more of the beer in the process of getting the ABV so high. So in reality you’re paying for almost 40 ounces of a barrel aged quadruple IPA shipped over seas. Still a steep price to pay but give how painstaking the process is I think the pricetag is totally justifiable. I just wish I had the money to blow on a bottle to put in my cellar as I’m sure this beer will be great now, a year from now, 5 years from now… hell 50 years from now!



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It only gets better from here… Chocolate Rain

I’ll start out this blog with a beer that is considered by many to be a phenomenal beer but is one I found failed to live up to expectations!

Chocolate Rain by Bruery in California is a massive barrel aged imperial stout brewed with cocoa nibs. A limited number of bottles were released in December of 2010 and I have been lucky enough to try this a few times. This review is off notes taken when Jason shared his bottle with our group at Jackie O’s.

Bruery Chocolate Rain

Chocolate Rain pours an incredibly dark brown almost black with a bit of a reddish hue. A touch of tan head that dissipates quickly leaving only a small ring of bubbles around the edges of the glass. This beer is so viscous that it hangs on the glass for minutes when swirled. Smells strongly of bitter sweet chocolate and booze. This is a potent beer. At 18.5 percent abv I suppose that should be expected! The beer tastes sweet and cloying. Harsh bourbon overpowers the semi-sweet chocolate on the tongue. This beer tastes horribly unbalanced. The bourbon adds to the booziness of the already strong beer giving it a burn that makes it difficult to put down. At its best its flavourful and certainly complex. The malt profile doesn’t have a chance to shine which saddens me. Overall, I dwell on the problems with this beer but its certainly a tasty brew. If you can get past the high abv and enjoy bourbon (which I do) the dark chocolate and thick malty backbone make for a very tasty beer.

Why you’ll likely never try it: Chocolate Rain is a variation of Bruery’s highly sought after bourbon barrel russian imperial stout call Black Tuesday. Black Tuesday itself is quite rare with only a few thousand bottles ever made. It rarely shows up on tap even at Bruery’s bar. Chocolate Rain is a small batch variation that has only been bottled once and with less than 1000 bottles ever made and only one bottle available to each “reserve society” member, getting your hands on a bottle is damn near impossible. If you aren’t a reserve society member you had better hope you have friends who are!

Is it worth the hunt?
In my opinion… no. even if it was readily available it would almost certainly command a ~30+ dollar price tag and frankly just isn’t worth the dough!

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